The last time I came across the name of Vladimir Verbitsky
it was as the conductor of some Miaskovsky pieces (not a symphony) on
the Olympia label. The booklet tells us nothing about him. I assume
that he was, in 1994, a guest or permanent conductor with the Perth-based
broadcasting orchestra. This is the same orchestra that gave us excellent
versions of the Barber violin concerto, Shelley Scene and Knoxville
back in the 1970s via Unicorn.
They are in good heart still if this CD is anything
to go by and I congratulate the Eloquence team on making this brave
choice. Eloquence chose this version over alternatives they could have
plucked from the DG, Decca and Philips catalogues. Perhaps a certain
quota had to be taken from ABC sources under the licensing arrangements.
Whatever the reason the fact that Verbitsky stands alongside Szell's
Fourth, Abbado's Sixth and Maazel's Manfred is bound to attract comment.
Verbitsky pushes things along in a lively and gravelly
performance that avoids the wilder euphoria of Mravinsky. He is warmly
sensitive - perhaps a mite treacly and certainly tough on the first
horn - in the andante cantabile. A lively Valse precedes
the finale which is stern and deliberate and often impetuous. It does
not have visceral blast of a Mravinsky but Verbitsky gives the signs
of being an experienced conductor who knows how to build climactic excitement
as well as languor. Marche Slave, that essay in Ippolitov-Ivanov/Borodin
territory, is given a decent performance with a steady beat and Verbitsky
makes more emotional capital from the piece than the conductor of the
last version I heard (Rozhdestvensky on Brilliant Classics). It is still
Verbitsky is well served by orchestra and by ABC in
a sane yet far from workaday interpretation of the Symphony.
A Reader writes
In your review of the West Australian Symphony's Tchaikovsky 5th on
ABC Eloquence (22 April), you referred to it as "the Perth-based
broadcasting orchestra". I thought it might be useful for me to
clarify the situation as far as the main Australian orchestras are concerned.
There is in each of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and
Hobart an orchestra which is completely or partly administered by the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation--Sydney is somewhat different, but
essentially, the ABC has responsibility for these orchestras. Part of
the ABC's charter is that some concerts from each of the orchestras
are broadcast live or recorded for later broadcast. The ABC has a separate
radio network which is used for classical music. Thus it is partly true
to refer to any of the orchestras as "a broadcasting orchestra",
but this constitutes only a minor part of the orchestra's operation.
Each of the orchestras has made CDs for ABC Classics, and for other
labels such as the Queensland orchestra's Frankel and Hindemith series